THE NEGATIVE for this scene of industrial clutter is marked “Fremont Barn N.E. Corner, Dec. 11, 1936.” “Barn” is short for “trolley car barn,” that brick structure that fills the horizon from North 35th Street on the right to the house on the left. Though not credited, the photo most likely was taken by an employee of Seattle’s municipal railways. The prospect looks west through the long block on North 35th Street between Evanston and Phinney avenues.
When it was completed in 1905, the ornate barn, along with the B.F. Day School nearby on Fremont Avenue, was one of the few brick structures in this mill-town neighborhood. Inside were accommodations for the trainmen as well as three bays for trolley-car repairs. Most of the homes built in the Fremont neighborhood after 1888, when the lumber mill opened, were modest residences for workers. In 1936, 16 houses were on this long block. Now, it seems, only six have endured.
Between the home and the barn there was room for a yard of well-packed trolleys and storage for stacks of what appear to be wide blocks of formed concrete. (Perhaps a reader will know and share their use.) In a 1936 aerial photograph, we can see both the concrete and a dozen rows of trolleys resting on their track spurs off North 34th Street — in the yard between the barn and the stacks. In all, this lot could accommodate 60 trolley cars.
In 1936 the municipal system ran 410 often-dilapidated electric trolleys over its worn 224 miles of tracks. Leslie Blanchard, Seattle’s trolley historian, described 1936 as the start of one of the most “spectacular political free-for-alls ever witnessed” in Seattle. The fight was over whether to keep the tracks and fix the system or convert it to buses and trackless trolleys. Of course, the latter won; between 1940 and 1942 the tracks were pulled up and the trolleys scrapped. The Army bought the Fremont Barn for wartime storage.
Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s blog at www.pauldorpat.com.